George Wythe

George Wythe

Hampton City, Virginia, USA
Death 8 Jun 1806 (aged 79)
Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA
Burial Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA
Memorial ID 2792 · View Source
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Signer of the Declaration of Independence from Virginia. Born in Back River, near Hampton, Virginia, his father died when he was three years old. George’s mother was highly educated, and she home-schooled him until he was sixteen. At 16, George began to study law with his uncle, and passed the bar exam in 1757. A year later, he married Ann Lewis, who died eight months after their wedding. Later he married Elizabeth Taliaferro, with whom he would have one child, who would not survive infancy. Wythe was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1754, and elected mayor of Williamsburg in 1768. In 1764, he wrote the original Virginia protest against the Stamp Act. It was so fiery that he had to be rewritten in a softer tone. He would also teach law at the College of William and Mary, among his pupils were two future Presidents, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. To help needy law students, he often took them into his home to live. Thomas Jefferson, who had lost his own father at age 14, called Wythe, “my second father.” Wythe served in the Second Continental Congress, from 1775 to 1776. After a few months in Congress, he returned home to help draft the Virginia constitution. In 1778, he became a judge of the court of chancery. In 1779, Wythe was appointed to the nation’s first law professorship, established at the College of William and Mary by his former student, Thomas Jefferson. In 1786, he became Chancellor of the state. He participated in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The next year, he was elected to serve in the convention in Richmond, Virginia, to consider whether to approve the newly drafted US Constitution. Wythe helped to sway the delegates to support the new constitution, and Virginia narrowly became the tenth state to approve the document. Over the years, Wythe had grown to hate slavery, and after his second wife, Elizabeth, died in the late 1780s, he began to free his slaves. He lived with two of his former slaves: a housekeeper, Lydia Broadnax, and a young man named Michael Brown. Wythe was so fond of Michael that he named him to inherit part of his estate. Also living with him was his great-nephew, George Wythe Sweeney. Sweeney, who was in line to inherit most of the estate, ran up huge gambling debts. Initially, Sweeney forged his uncle’s name on checks, but becoming more desperate for money, he poured poison into coffee that George Wythe, Michael Brown and Lydia Broadnax drank. George and Michael both died from the poison, but Lydia survived. There was plenty of evidence against Sweeney, but by Virginia law blacks could not testify against whites in court, so Lydia was not heard, and Sweeney was found “not guilty” of murder. George Wythe died at age 80 from the poison his great-nephew had given him.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson

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This tablet is dedicated
To mark the site where lie
The mortal remains of
George Wythe
Born 1726 - died 1806
Jurist and statesman
Teacher of Randolph Jefferson and Marshall.
First professor of law in the United States
First Virginia signer of the Declaration of Independence

Erected by Patriotic Citizens of Virginia A.D. 1922



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 26 Apr 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 2792
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for George Wythe (3 Dec 1726–8 Jun 1806), Find a Grave Memorial no. 2792, citing Saint John's Episcopal Churchyard, Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .